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Less is more in window treatments

Designers give advice on window treatments that will look updated and freshen a room.
BY MELISSA RAYWORTH Published: April 16, 2012

With daylight saving time and springtime weather upon us, we'll soon be opening windows and letting the sunshine in. As breezes set curtains fluttering, it's the perfect time to consider the way your windows are decorated.

“Dressing windows is one of the most impactful ways to give any space a designer edge,” said Brian Patrick Flynn, an interior designer and founder of

The freshest looks now, according to Flynn and interior designers Betsy Burnham and Mallory Mathison, are all about simplicity, softness and fuss-free design.

Simple hardware

“The skinnier the rod, the fresher the room will look,” said Burnham, founder of Burnham Design in Los Angeles. “Just a skinny rod with tiny rings is all you need. It's very graceful. ... When I see 2-inch and 3-inch wooden rods and clunky rings now, it looks so dated.”

Mathison, who is based in Atlanta, agrees: “People are moving away from window treatments with cornices and valances.” With a basic curtain or Roman shade, she said, you don't need to worry about “anything collecting dust or dirt, or kids wrapping themselves up in bunches of fabric.”

Sheers and naturals

Mathison increasingly prefers to use sheer curtains on their own, rather than pairing them with thicker draperies.

Adding a thin, organic cotton lining to a sheer curtain panel adds a bit of privacy, but keeps “that sort of flowy, gauzy look,” she said. “It's a soft little frame for the window and there's no distraction with it being a heavy fabric.”

Only what you need

A few years ago, Burnham said, many designers favored piling on fabric to create dramatic windows. Today, there's a spare approach.

“We're not swagging. There's no puddling of fabric on the floor anymore,” she said. Now, it's best for fabric to “just kiss the floor.”

The same rule goes for Roman shades: “A simple, pleated style, not too much fabric” has become more popular than billowing shades.

And phony curtains are definitely out: “Don't put up two panels that don't actually close,” Burnham said.

Custom look for less

It's increasingly easy to get the look of made-to-order window treatments without the cost. All three designers suggest buying pre-packaged curtain panels, then having them custom lined and hemmed to fit your windows.

“I stick with linen and cotton,” said Flynn, “then drop them off to a seamstress to be lined so they hang nicely. Next, I have the tops sewn ‘soft-top' style, which is a straight stitch that gives a casual, relaxed look. Then drapery hooks are added. The cost is anywhere from $25 to $125 per panel, depending on the type of pleat and liner used.”

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